closing out the coaching training at IDF

For weeks I have been both looking forward to and dreading this last day of coaching training with IDF in Bamenda. This was the follow-up to the coaching workshop from last May.  Not that I didn’t want to be talking about coaching with them again, but because I was nervous about just how much they had retained and how likely it was they would want to continue to build a coaching culture within their organization.

As always, I had no reason for the sleepless nights.  There is space in IDF’s heart for coaching and a great desire to continue the relationship with Coaching the Global Village who provided me with the curriculum, the funding and the support to make it all happen.

I had connected with 5 of the training participants a few weeks ago and had a better idea of where they were at individually.  We’d been able to speak one-on-one about their coaching experiences so far, and what challenges they had faced.

This last day of training, however, was aimed at doing knowledge-sharing between the participants and also at further solidifying their coaching skills so that they can continue to grow as coaches.  I had planned a full-day of experiential learning, and while a great laid out plan helps, it was tossed out the window in the first five minutes!  Because of unforeseen difficulties with another IDF project, we had to cut the training short, but by strong request from the participants, we didn’t shirk the work one tiny bit!  If I had had a checklist, it would have been nearly filled!

coaching training in action

The highlights for me in this marathon coaching training were that I am now truly convinced this group of people see the value in coaching as a tool for development.

To start from the end, I asked the participants to conclude the day by preparing a passionate sales pitch that they could employ in convincing their colleagues, the community volunteers in the field and their many partners, to include coaching in their activities. I didn’t know what to expect (always a gamble to use expressions like “sales pitch” when you don’t know if it translates in the local receiving culture!).  But I was impressed. They all said that even though coaching wasn’t mainstreamed in Africa yet, they believed they could be at the forefront of its adoption into their activities.

IDF may not be the first organization to receive coaching training in Africa, but the feeling that they are innovators is a gargantuan motivator – it gives them the opportunity to be, feel, and act like pioneers.

The training itself – a continuation of the Creative Leadership Conversations methodology – went quite well:  We reviewed the mainstays of coaching.  We spent a long time discussing how to build relationships that create the space for effective coaching.  We talked about the long-term approach to working with hard to reach groups.  Participants shared their thoughts about how they thought their listening skills were improving.  They collectively commiserated about the difficulty of fully clearing one’s mind, being entirely focused and present in a coaching conversation.

Every opening I had, I asked them to comment on the cultural differences and challenges coaching and the CLC methodology presented.  For instance, it is unusual, they said, for persons in Cameroon to have a “vision” as we define it in the West.  I kept being told by other people that usually people live day-to-day, hand-to-mouth.  To clarify visioning, however, I shared with them that in Canada we often ask small children “what do you want to be when you grow up” and that we fully expect an answer (no matter how farfetched).  I didn’t think this was the case here, but I had to check.  They agreed with my assessment.

So I braved the follow-up question:  “how does this affect your coaching if people do not have a vision and do not set goals and do not plan for the future?… And while we’re at it how can they be accountable for actions without any of the above?”

They told me that was the challenge.

I asked, feeling a little cheeky by that point, if we should forget about visioning as a coaching tool in the Cameroonian context.  That nearly started a riot!  (NB: this was just the reaction I was hoping for!)

“No”, they said, “it’s just the opposite!  We have to train the adults who did not grow up having a vision to see the value in it, and then they can help us train the children so that they start working towards a goal. That way they not just stay in school but want to work towards a career.  We have to create a change in this culture because having a vision will make them work towards something.  We need this as a life-skills building. It’s necessary!”

I get goose bumps just thinking about it.  After two years of working in Cameroon, I was starting to think my cynicism was clouding my vision (pardon the pun).  I could see from their animated discussion that coaching wasn’t just a tool they could use to empower their beneficiaries and improve their working culture.  The four participants – these shiny new coaches – are actually seeing this as a tool for cultural change!

My, oh my, what have I started now?  Visioning as a grassroots cultural revolution???  Yikes.  But then again, Yippie!

They tell me that the concept of time in Africa (or how they themselves see it anyway) makes visioning a foreign concept.  They know there is a challenge to making this more engrained in their activities.  They talked about – and made action plans towards – the development of awareness building of coaching as a tool and visioning as an agent to positive change.

Wow.

By then, even the remaining discussion on Emotional Intelligence – that it matters less what we know than how we use what we know – we were rolling around in gold.  We looked back at their shared experiences and were able to comment on the fact that they were, unknowingly, building their EQ skills each and every day.  Just by the fact that they were asking for confirmation and support for the way they had used coaching in various instances was evidence enough.  Still didn’t do it justice, but the groundwork has been laid.

Lastly we worked on a “passionate” action plan (which led to the sales pitch mentioned above) for growing a coaching culture in IDF.  We developed actions that would bring the organization closer to their vision:  a greater use of coaching in the organization which would lead to the empowerment of beneficiaries to reach their own vision and goals – a vision that is now clearer and achievable!

Good job IDF coaches… and good coaching!  We are together.

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~ by Caroline Spira on September 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “closing out the coaching training at IDF”

  1. I just realized I missed reading your next to the last posting. How impressive! I get goose bumps just reading it.

  2. awesome work and wonderful story, thanks for sharing

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